M7 Summons Cabinet Over Sick Cows
By Our Reporters
A multi-billion livestock export deal between Uganda and Egypt is on the verge of collapsing after the intervention President Museveni had devised, costing billions, got unexpected hurdles.
Museveni, who is struggling with a frail economy, has desperately been trying all efforts to increase the inflow of foreign exchange to Uganda. One of his recent efforts was to lobby Egyptian President Fata Al-sis to accept to import Ugandan beef for the Egyptian military.
This was after countries like India that used to export to Egypt got constrained and were unable to export. This was to be done under the Uganda-Egyptian project on Food Security (EUFS) based at Bombo where the Egyptian government company has set up a big beef processing plant to process Ugandan beef and later export it to Egypt for their military’s consumption.
Management at EUFS says they have secured a demand of 12,000 cows per month in Egypt and Uganda must supply cows that meet certain minimum quality standards and specifications including each weighing a minimum of 300kgs.
Having been let down by the infighting in the Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Animal Husbandry, Museveni tasked the UPDF to spearhead the exercise to quickly increase livestock production to meet the Egyptian market demands.
The UPDF was last FY allocated 12bn to establish livestock feed lots and holding grounds where cows are to be put on a specific dieting (it’s called fattening) to fatten them to the level the Egyptians want. Using the Shs12bn provided through MAAIF, the UPDF leadership has established state of the art fattening facility at Katonga near Museveni’s ranch in Kisozi.
The authorities at the Katonga farm buy cattle from livestock farmers in the cattle corridor which are fattened in preparation for beef exportation to Egypt. So far over 2,000 cows have been stocked and are undergoing fattening exercise for eventual slaughter and exportation to Egypt.
However, a few weeks ago Museveni got credible reports from the army showing that his 2,000 cows so far stocked in the Katonga farm are on the verge of being rejected by Egyptians after they became enmassely infected by FMD which is wide spread in Tanzania.
In Tanzania the livestock sector is one of those that are most mismanaged and there is no government program to vaccinate against the FMD infection whose detection is enough to cause the Egyptians to pull out of the deal.
Experts told us last night that, whereas FMD may not kill the cattle, its detection makes them impossible to market abroad for the exportation of their beef. In Tanzania, shrewd Ugandans have been buying the cows cheaply for resale to the army fattening facility in Katonga. The Tanzanian cows are cheap because there aren’t vaccinated against infections like FMD.
So this is how and why Museveni became very frightened on learning of FMD being confirmed at the army’s fattening facility.
This confirmation comes at a time when a team of Egyptian government quality experts are in Uganda, having jetted in on the weekend, to certify the quality of the Ugandan cows that will soon be exported to Egypt under the EUFS initiative.
On learning the Egyptians were coming, Museveni who initially had a lot of hope in the Egyptian deal became very frightened and has since Friday been working up the phone ringing all the best vet doctors he knows everywhere in the world begging them to come to his rescue not to lose the Egyptian deal.
Whoever he calls Museveni begs them that “kindly come and help us we are on the verge of losing out this market and I don’t know what we shall do if we lose these Egyptians to Tanzania.”
We are reliably informed Museveni has since squeezed vet technocrats at MAAIF to urgently come up with a paper guiding on quick interventions that can be undertaken to avoid scaring off the Egyptians.
He was even more frustrated to learn from his minister Sempijja of MAAIF that Uganda actually doesn’t even have any anti-FMD vaccines remaining for emergencies like this.
“We used to buy the vaccine from Botswana but as of now even they themselves don’t have any. One must make an order and wait for 6 months. The other vaccines flooding the market are fake and we can only use them at our own peril,” said a State House close to Museveni’s keenness for the EUFS project in Bombo.
We are told Museveni’s interest in the matter is twofold including being concerned for the 2,000 cows at the army fattening facility in Katonga and also concern for his own ranch in Kisozi where his cows are at risk of being infected by the FMD from Katonga farm which isn’t very far from his own Kisozi.
As such the big man from Rwakitura has summoned cabinet for an emergency session to market his paper from MAAIF technocrats.
He hopes that during the Wednesday cabinet session, he will use the paper with specific interventions to get Cabinet vote to direct the Finance Ministry to urgently find funding to save the situation before the Egyptians who have been threatening can finally pull out and relocate to Tanzania.